Review: The 15:17 To Paris

The catastrophic fall of one of America’s great film makers into right wing, garish agenda driving continues as Clint Eastwood dumps The 15:17 To Paris on us. Made all the more offensive by casting the actual people involved in the real incident, this is a self aggrandising piece of cinematic sentimental American flag waving. 

If there’s one thing Clint Eastwood is, he’s a proud American. You can’t deny it. In recent years, however, the 87 year old film maker’s taste for pushing that white male privilege American agenda has nefariously polluted his films. He’s abandoned all respect for history and gone for the flag waving so brazenly, it’s quite breathtaking, really. None better is this represented than in the cinematic racist hate-crime that is American Sniper, and (to a lesser international extent) the embellished plane saporama Sully. White grizzled American men, saving American people, better than all other kinds of people on the planet, right? Clint?

Well that pedigree continues here with the (mercifully) 93 minute biopic The 15:17 to Paris whereby Clint Eastwood eulogises the 21 August, 2015 potentially deadly terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to the French capital that was thwarted by three American tourists.

Holidaying friends and off duty U.S. soldiers Spencer Stone (23), Anthony Sadler (23), and Alek Skarlatos (22) boarded the Thalys Train from Amsterdam to Paris at 3.17pm and midway through the journey tackled a suspected Islamic terrorist who’s gun jammed when trying to fire upon the unwitting passengers. In a sheer act of selfless bravery, the three young men subdued the assailant until the authorities arrested him.

They are heroes. You cannot deny that. But here’s where the film gets… well, icky..

Eastwood’s decision to cast the three actual men as themselves in the filmic version and then subvert the story by spending the majority of it playing their younger selves is both grotesque and tacky. Added to that, these boys aren’t actors and the delivery feels forced, wooden and staged.

The manipulative concept Eastwood is going for here is simple: ingratiate these all-American white boys wholesome all-American upbringing and all-American every-man friendship idyll onto you then tack the attack at the end. Not a new idea in a melodramatic sense, yet made all the more cringe worthy given the casting.

Given this choice, the lack of screen acting chops on show, and Eastwood’s stoically dull approach to direction, there’s almost zero tension in the film. It plods along and even these real life friends seem disconnected. Of course, the end comes at you with a ‘Thank God for America!’ bombast but the whole thing just feels so shoddy and tasteless.

The 15:17 to Paris is a gimmick film. A half baked idea turned into a movie. A next level decent into Clint Eastwood drudgery. The three leads can be forgiven for their honest patriotism and the fact they aren’t actors. The director, however, cannot. Get on The Commuter train instead.